Monday, 1 December 2008

Glacier El Perito Moreno

I´ve just returned from a trip to see the Glacier El Perito Moreno.
I started out on Saturday morning from Pto Natales, I took the bus overland to El Calafate in Argentina. I saw a couple of cyclists out of the window, and felt a bit guilty. But after seeing the immense distance & one of the cyclists looked like he was dead in a ditch [I know the feeling !] I thought I´d probably made the right decision.
On arriving in El Calafate, a town on the edge of the pampas and steppes / desert, I had to rebuild my bike and trailer, re-pack. I was only an hour. I enquired about a bus north to the town Perito Moreno, which is the end of a long 5/6 day desert slog, or would be if I went by bike. One office told me I had to go via Rio Gallegos, which if you check out on a map, is back South about 350+km! I left and found shelter, a nice spot cold Los Nietos. The woman who runs the place was very amable, and when she knew I could converse a little in Spanish and I said I was cycling into & out of the local national park, she knocked the price down from 25 pesos to 20. Not bad for about 4 quid. (can´t find the english pound symbol on this keyboard, someone must tell me the ASCII so I can punch it in manually)
I cooked up a large pasta dish again. I haven´t eaten out yet, I´ve bought food that either doesn´t need cooking or I´ve cooked in the hospedajes. I talked to an Argentinian guy who was working down here. He was off to Rio Turbio to seek more work. I also met a couple of Swedish girls. One was here long time, travelling, here friend was just over for a short break. I left them talking to the Argentinian. I need my sleep now I´m getting older.
I set off just before 8 am, expecting a nice gentle ride in. It was a nice ride too, I saw condor, upland geese, lots of other birds, even ones which are like eagles, but don´t know quite what. I had lunch of sugary croissants. I would have loved a milky coffee to wash them down, but all I had was some dodgy tasting mineral water. I pressed on as I thought it would be nice to get there by 3 and then see the glacier. I reached the park entrance, about 35km short of the target. They told me I had to pay 40 pesos to enter, and no I couldn´t camp. I decided it wouldn´t help if I complained, but the guy went in and brought the tough looking park warden out. I had agreed I wouldn´t camp!
I now had to press on as fast as I could. I downed some water, empanadas (pasty like things) and sped on as fast as my poor legs would go. I eventually reached the glacier. I must say it is very beautifull, well worth a visit. As I was heading back I met the two swedes. I explained I couldn´t camp and had to head out. I had quite a few admiring the bike, where have you come from, where are you going.....
I started to get a bad headache, the sun was out full and the air temperature was upto the +30s. I decided I must drink a bit more and I found a mountain stream where I could soak my head. The pain went.
About 10km before reaching the end of the section to leave the park, two other cyclists caught me up. The had no luggage, just the bike and water. Both were German and they expressed interest in where I was from, where had I been, how was the trailer, which I believe is called either a camioncita or cochita. no matter, they were heading back to El Calafate. I could have done the full +150km, but had planned to camp. I could have made it back, but I was going to camp. The area was so nice. I found a spot near a river. I ate my torta de Kiwi and the last of the empanadas. I moved on as it seemed to open and close to the road. I turned off onto a side road and around a hillock I pitched the tent. The sky was blue horizon to horizon. I had to wait until the sun went down before I could enter my tent. I slept straight away. I awoke a few times in the night to admire the stars, all for about 5 seconds, before I slumped back down. It was cold again!
I decided I wouldn´t get up early, I had reserved a bed and only had 40 - 45km left to do. So I waited for the sun to warm things up, then I arose. I ate the remains of my pasta dish from the day earlier. It seemed ok.

I passed more eagles. I tried to photograph them but you can only get so close before they move on. I rode into town at around 11:30, after a gentle 45km ride. I´ll now need to work out how to get north, possibly la cuidad de Perito Moreno.

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